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Dunkin' plans to tap into the Beyond Meat plant-based protein craze

Brian Sozzi

Dunkin’ Brands (DNKN) is preparing to tap into the voracious appetite for plant-based protein (that looks and tastes like meat).

The company’s CEO David Hoffmann told Yahoo Finance On the Move Friday he is in talks to partner with a plant-based protein player. Hoffmann declined to comment on who that partner would be. But, he suggested the protein could take the form of sausage crumbles atop Dunkin’s new millennial-friendly egg bowls.

Recently, Restaurant Brands’ Burger King brand teamed up with Impossible Foods for a plant-based burger. The test run did so well Burger King quickly expanded availability nationwide.

It’s not surprising that Dunkin’ is about to go this route. Hoffmann, a restaurant industry veteran, has moved quickly since taking over as CEO in 2018 to modernize the Dunkin’ brand. That has included dropping the word “donut” from the company’s new stores, rolling out affordable espresso beverages and more recently, releasing egg bowls.

The combined efforts of these moves appeared to pay dividends for Dunkin’ in the first quarter. Dunkin’ U.S. same-store sales popped 2.4% in the quarter, beating Wall Street estimates for a 1.5% increase. Adjusted earnings came in at 67 cents a share versus forecasts for 62 cents a share.

The plant-based protein craze

A Veggie Egg White Flatbread sandwich is seen at a Dunkin' Donuts restaurant. (Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Now would certainly be the time to strike for Dunkin’ in this particular niche.

“I am a huge believer in the space. Two years ago I bet on crickets as a major source of protein,” former Cisco Chair and CEO John Chambers told Yahoo Finance Thursday. Chambers, who now boasts a portfolio of 18 upstart companies as founder of VC firm JC2 Ventures, added “I am glad Beyond Meat [shares] popped today — they are a disruptor.”

Beyond Meat shares exploded 163% to $65.60 in their debut on the Nasdaq Composite Thursday. The company ended its first day of trading with a $3.8 billion market cap, according to Yahoo Finance data. Beyond Meat priced its offering at $25 a share on Wednesday.

The enthusiasm for Beyond Meat reflects the shift in eating habits sweeping across the nation. Millennials and teens are waving goodbye to beef and other meats and hello to plant-based alternatives.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-host of ‘The First Trade’ at Yahoo Finance. Follow Brian Sozzi him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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